Elections in Serbia: the failure of the intimidation strategy

The outcome of the parliamentary elections in Serbia gave me both a sense of relieve and of cautious hope for the immediate and long term future of the citizens of Serbia, as well as for the citizens of her neighbor countries.

I should probably be writing about what this election means for democratic values etc etc etc and about my hope that these results represent a watershed, or probably just presenting a cold analysis on the possible coalition deals. Instead of these kind of reflexions that are generally expected to be produced by a political scientist, here I am sharing my feeling of reward for the defeat of the bullying strategy. I am feeling like when I was a small school girl and my younger sister beated up some of the bullies that for several days had been persecuting me all over the school yard. I felt then that my dignity had been restored, and that never again I would have to fear thugs, because they no more than cowards who relie on their chosen victims perceived weakness.

During the last months (or should I say the last decades?), normal serbian citizens have been constantly subjected to psychological blackmail, being constantly reminded that their ethnic belonging obliged them to sacrifice their legitimate goals of having a decent peaceful life in order to pursue the supreme patriotic and spiritual goal of getting Kosovo back, because, without Kosovo, Serbia could not exist, just as a body cannot survive without its heart.
Those who were identified as capable of resisting such pressure were subject to intimidation, in open or insidious ways. I don’t like bullies, and it gives me great pleasure to imagine their intimate thoughts and to think how humiliated they amust be feeling now, and how they must be thinking how ungrateful are the citizens of Serbia not to recognize their sincere effort to preserve the spiritual unity of the country.

I am aware that this is a mean thought, but I have strong reasons to feel this sense of reward. I felt the oppressive environment that I had the chance to observe on my last trip to Belgrade as unbearable, and the idea that it could bear fruit had been haunting me since then. I though of my friends who had to cope with this on an everyday basis, and of the prospect of them being denied a normal life in a normal country.

Most of the Serbian voters didn’t need to be intimidated or induced into passivity, because they gladly supported political parties that openly promote racism, hatred and agression against whoever they decide o label as enemies. Serbia will remain a divided society, and the possibility that the fragile balance may shift to the wrong side will remain, as long as those decent normal citizens do not fully recognize that the values and life standards that they claim to themselves also apply to their neighbors, and that being free means also the responsibility to recognize and take measures to help repair all the suffering imposed on others in the name of the nation to which they belong.

I am not a particularly optimistic person, but neither am I a prophet of disgrace. It also happens that I come from a country which some very prestigious political scientist considered culturally unfit for democracy, and History has proved them wrong. If slavery, colonialism, apartheid could be defeated, racism too can be fought, and then a young man in Belgrade will not have to secretly self-learn albanian, nor will there be any problem that kosovar citizens visit this beautiful city just for the pleasure of a walk in Kalamegdan park.

As for me, I can’t hardly wait to return to Belgrade. I’ve just found myself the proper excuse. It happens that I need to buy some collorful new shoe laces… and as I can’t find them anywhere else, I’ll take the chance to drink some turkish coffe with my friends, and, who knows, I may even have a Big Mac at Slavija (most probably I’ll stick to cheese burek, but we never know)


Filed under Belgrade, Freedom, Hope, Serbia

13 responses to “Elections in Serbia: the failure of the intimidation strategy

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Serbia: “Defeat of the Bullying Strategy”

  2. AM

    My dear friend

    You have no idea how much I need some colorfull shoe laces, but, more then that, how curious I am on finding what looks like (and how it tastes) a cheese burek.

    All the best

  3. limbic

    Dear Sarah,

    Belgrade is wonderful these days, the weather is fresh and the atmosphere is so much better than it has been in many months.

    I came to your blog thanks to a lovely plug for you from Marko Hoare at his blog (http://greatersurbiton.wordpress.com) .

    If you are coming back, get in touch, it would be great to interview you for the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club (http://www.belgradefvc.com).


  4. Monica

    as usual I share your hope and the joy of seeing that democracy and freedom have a very strong appeal to people who refuse to keep on being bullyed.
    Your analysis is straight to the point (and passionate, as always – a political scientist is also a person).
    The best

  5. Enjoyable post and blog but there is one thing I take issue with – eating a Big Mac in Serbia. No, there are so many good places to eat these days in Bg.
    The establishment you mentioned is only the kind of place you go to if you don’t have an idea where else to go, or if fellow guests insist upon it….

  6. Oh, on a more serious point your analogy about bullies I understand and agree with. But this is a feeling that members of the (patriotic) diaspora also are prey to.
    Serbia is the victim and its the powerful countries in the world ganging up against it, supported by individuals working in the mainstream media.
    I’m not saying they are right or wrong but I’m sure they would see their cause in similar terms.

  7. sarahfranco


    I have been in Belgrade several times and not once did I eat at McDonalds. In the street where I live I have McDonalds too and I never eat there.

    In fact, for me McDonalds has the sole interest of being a practical place to go when you need to use a toilet.

    But after having witnessed with my own yes and recorded with my camera how some serbian citizens expressed their grief for the lost of the heart of the nation by taking tables and chairs out of Slavija’s McDonalds and destroying what they could not carry, I made this decision that I would have a Big Mac there. Maybe i’ll just go in and use the toilet, we’ll see about that!

    About the diaspora, I have had very bad experiences with serbian citizens living in my country and with portuguese citizens married to serbs.

    Diaspora communities are usually more conservative and more prone to see themselves as the good guys. This is not a serbian exception. It is the same with the portuguese diaspora.

  8. Marko Attila Hoare

    You’re right, Sarah, one should certainly support McDonald’s. I love Serbian food, but sometimes one feels like something different, and one doesn’t always want to go to a proper restaurant. McDonald’s in Tasmajdan is a colourful, childfriendly environment, very quick and convenient. By supporting McDonald’s, one is helping to promote the noble cause of globalisation, so I often eat there when I’m in Belgrade. And something the fascists want to smash up is additionally worth supporting…


  9. sarahfranco

    This reminds me of a phrase I saw in a book. It was a japanese Zen phrase, that said “Everything with moderation, including moderation”.

    Montesquieu, who, as far as I know never read Zen or boudhist books, said the same thing about virtue, that even virtue itself should have limits.

    So I don’t see why having a Mc’Donalds now or then poses any threat to the purity of national gastronomy.

    It doesn’t even pose a threat to local restaurants, wherever they may be…

    a moderate dose of junk food is wonderful also as an antidote to the totalitarian mentality that pervades the discourse about health these days…

    but I have to admit I prefer Burgerking 🙂

  10. Correction: McDonald’s is in Terazije, not Tasmajdan.

    I think nationalists fear that McDonald’s, like democracy and human rights, is an alien Western intrusion that will corrupt the nation…

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